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Vale Richard Millard

07 Apr 2011

There are many exhibitions and events of the past few weeks that I could choose to comment on but in terms of the stained glass industry none so important as the passing of Richard Millard, who died peacefully on Feb 26th 2011. Geoffrey Wallace of Melbourne was fortunate to host a workshop tutored by Dick, who spent his youth in Australia, just last year. Geoff and his wife Suzie attended the funeral in Peterborough NH. Here is a transcript of the eulogy, reproduced in full, care of Donna Cooper of the AGDA:

Dick Millard was a colourful man. He was full of colour in many ways - in the art he created, in the stories he would tell, in the cuss woirds he would use, in the ways he wore his hair and clothes.

As a stained glass artist he worked with colour. In a 2006 article about him by Shawn Waggoner, he implies that he doesn't mind breaking the rules when it comes to using colours that are generally avoided and that he happens to like green. It makes sense that he liked green and this was the predominant colour of the natural world around him.

Dick certainly had a colourful childhood. Having an identical twin is unusual enough but how many people do you know who were child actors before the age of seven? Dick and his brother Ronald, who went by the name of Buddy, were in ads for products such as Campbell's Soups and only stopped when their mother decided the disappointment of not getting an expected large role was not worth the benefits of being on the business.

An article by Kimberly Kicera refers to Dick's 'colourful parentage'. His father ran away to sea at age 14 and his mother was born in Argentina of South African parents, though she grew up in Massachusetts. When the boys were seven the family moved to Australia, where Dick's father was from and they lived there for seven years. I understand the twins never quite lost the trace of Australian accent they acquired during those formative years there.

When Dick was in eighth grade he decided he had had enough of the harsh corporal punishment practised in the schools then in Australia and one day while waiting in the hall for his punishment just left and never came back. He pusued some colourful ways of occupying himself after that, including working in a feed store and picking oysters on the Great Barrier Reef.

After coming back to New York Dick took advantage of his father's connections in the painting and decorating guild and got into an apprenticeship in stained glass. He was only 15 years old and embarked on the career that would consume his lifetime. His work is well-known, at least in the world of stained glass and he has been referred to as a national treasure and regarded as one of thee finest traditional stained glass artists, known worldwide. His career included writing a book and writing and editing for journals in the field. It also included teaching, which he did more of later in his career, establishing the Antrim School with his wife Victoria.

Dick with badger brush in handDick with badger brush in hand

co-authored with Anita and Seymor Isenergco-authored with Anita and Seymor Isenerg

But more colourful even than his fascinating childhood or his illustrious career was the man himself. His daughter-in-law, Melissa, called him "larger than life" and she was referring to the personal presence he exuded. Though Dick's formal education outside of art school ended in eighth grade, he was well-read and self-taught and was knowledgeable on a wide range of topics, with an especially rich knowledge of art and literature.

Dick was a great talker but also a great listener. He would find out a person's passion then engage with them about it. He was people oriented, very entertaining and charming.

Dick definitely had his opinions and wasn't afraid to voice them. He was a passionate man and would address things he disagreed with with the same passion that he would address the things he agreed with. He would get frustrated with the organisations he joined, because they didn't always do things his way. I understand he didn't like anybody's driving.

And yet, Dick saw the beauty in everyone. He was very perceptive and could tell if someone was genuine or not. But rather than focussing on people's flaws he lifted up their strengths. He was a natural teacher because of this and was great with children as well as adults. Even animals - I heard that at 75 he was still getting on his hands and knees to give affection to his cats and visiting dogs.

This was a man who was very secure with who he was. He had no personal vanity - definitely not a slave to fashion. He had no problem expressing his affection, calling people "lovey" or "dearheart" or, if you were really special, "monkey". He expressed affection for his sons, hugging and kissing them right into adulthood. Dick was a very supportive father and would ask his sons great questions and listen to what they had to say. He adored his grandchildren and it is a shame he didn't live long enough to be there for all of them growing up.

His first marriage to Vera, with whom he had his two sons, Kent and Christopher, unfortunately ended yet their relationship remained good. It was some time later that Victoria came into his life, a fellow stained glass creator. Vickie and Dick were great creative partners and had a great relationship. She was good for him and with her he finally went back to Australia last year for the first time since he left as a child. With Vickie, Dick also started doing the things he needed to do to improve his health and Christopher believes it is due to her that he was around for as long as he was. Dick's flame is now extinguished but the colours he leaves behind will never fade. His legacy will endure not only in the art he produced but in the love he planted and nourished everywhere. He connected people and connected with people in ways that have lasting impact.

The world is unquestionably a better place for Dick having lived and his loss is a great loss not only to those who loved him but to the whole world.


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